How to strive for peak performance

Peak productivity

In the post-financial crisis era there is much talk about productivity.

On a personal level, you can only be truly productive when your mind & body are in a productive state.

It sounds kinds of obvious, but if you’re low on energy, slumped heavily in a chair with poor posture, head down, morose, with shallow breathing, mumbling quietly & slowly…well, that’s probably not going to cut it!

In Clive Woodward’s book Winning! he described how upon become England’s head rugby coach he assembled the expectant squad on the training field & excitedly arranged for speakers to pump out his favourite Carly Simon number at maximum volume.

One can only imagine the nervous sideways glances of the hefty old-school rugby players, and with that taste in motivational music it was perhaps no surprise that England were dumped out of the 1999 World Cup by a canny South African outfit (Sir Clive, I jest!).

By 2003, things were looking up – both in terms of squad performance & musical selection – and Woodward played Eminem’s spitting masterpiece Lose Yourself from the brilliant 8 Mile soundtrack over a rugby highlights video to the squad ahead of its Grand Slam decider with Ireland.

The enthused squad triumphed & went on to win England’s first ever Rugby World Cup later in the same year, beating Australia Down Under in Sydney.

Woodward spent valuable time & energy arranging a soundtrack for success because he’d recognised the combined power of movement & music – if perhaps not Carly Simon’s music – to change a player’s mental state.

Spotify has reported that Eminem is also the motivational artist of choice for gym attendees, with Til I Collapse the track most likely to be featured in playlists labelled “workout”.

Changing your state of mind

Some years ago I lived overseas with a bunch of African guys & gals, and while we had many hilarious times, I found out something else about myself: I can be a moody cove, especially when cohabiting.

If you have a challenging professional life or run a small business you don’t need me to tell you how some days everything can seem to be too much to cope with.

Sometimes everything just sucks & it seems impossible to achieve anything worthwhile – if so, that’s probably in part because you’re in a lousy psychological state.

For surly types like me, this means about twice per day on average!

As Clive Woodward understood, emotion is created by motion, and moving & listening to music is just one of many ways in which to positively change your physiology & biochemistry.

You have the resources

As a reader of this blog, it’s likely that you already have many or most of the tools & resources you need to achieve what your want; sometimes all it takes to improve outcomes is recognising when you’re in a less than optimal mental state & finding a way to change it instantly.

To be blunt, I wish I had known this when I was much younger.

Give yourself more choices to change your state!

A beach run & swim, trampolining, or a 12-minute kettlebell workout listening to Ice Cube unfailingly work for me, but for you it might mean reading a positive book, meditation, a power-walk in the fresh air, or simply phoning a sympathetic friend.

Whatever works, works.

You can also help yourself further simply through improving the language you use, & through genuinely focusing on what it is what you really want to achieve.

By the way, I’ve found that in business it’s also a powerful competence to be able to recognise & then change the states of other people*, which is whole other skill in itself.


*not by playing them Carly Simon.